The secret to a good lie is how much can you get away with. If I am forty two years old and tell my friends I am forty where’s the fun in that? It requires no skill, no ‘selling’ and involves no excitement since there is little chance of being found out and no consequences if you are. To use a cricketing metaphor, if you are going to be out, be out swinging. There is nothing worse than being clean bowled playing a lily-livered forward defensive shot. The only decent way to be out is with the bat round your ears. My philosophy on lying is pretty much the same as my philosophy on anything else, there is no point in going about it half-arsed. Staying on the subject of arses, if you are going to be gay be a proper Julian Clary gay. Wear eye liner, never have your elbows below your ears and squeal if a mouse comes into the room. Don’t just put on a three piece suit and start hanging around men’s toilets like a conservative MP.
So the perfect lie has to be worth the effort. If I say I went to bed at midnight when really I went to bed at half passed, who would care? And what would be the point? If, on the other hand, I said I went to bed midnight the day before yesterday then there might well be a point. I am not saying that lying cannot be a legitimate end in itself but in this case if you believed that I had been up for thirty six hours straight I might gain certain kudos or perhaps allowances might be made for me making silly mistakes. If I were to say I had been up for sixty hours straight that would be even more interesting, gain me more mystique and grant me more allowances but if I said I had not slept since 1982 this would be a clear case of overcooking the proverbial cabbage.
This, incidentally is another potential reason for lying. There is no proverb involving overcooking cabbage… but there might be. If asked to enlarge on the subject obviously I would never admit to this I would be forced to think on my feet and come up with a proverb such as ‘An overboiled cabbage is a cause for woe.’ Whilst this might not go down with the Polish contingent (the Polish national dish bigos is pretty much overboiled cabbage) next time you were in a restaurant and the cabbage was overboiled you might use this proverb. Someone on the next table might overhear and the next thing you know it will be impossible to overboil cabbage without someone saying it was a cause for woe and I would have the satisfaction of knowing that I had left my mark for posterity.
The perfect lie needs to be not too small but not too big either. This is obviously a subjective call which is why lying is an art rather than a science. Other variables include the gullibility and knowledge of the audience, your own personal believability quotient and (most importantly of all) the way you sell the lie. If I were to claim to just mention in passing that I have climbed Mount Harry in Burma then it would possibly be believed but so what? If I give graphic details of the trials and tribulations involved it would possibly be believed and remembered. If the person that remembered it then told his mountaineering friend that he knew someone that had scaled the peaks of Mount Harry the mountaineer would probably (and correctly) say there is no such mountain. Now the fun starts. Will the chap then confront you? What will you do if he does? You have various options, you can say that you didn’t say Mount Harry but Mount Larry. You could deny everything and say it was not you that said it. A true professional would show photos of someone climbing some other mountain and offer it as proof of the existence of Mount Harry but one thing you can never do it say ‘Yes It’s a fair cop, it was all bull shit’.